The Work Programme is 'giving hope' to the unemployed, says minister for employment

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The Government's controversial Work Programme has been hailed a success by minister for employment, Mark Hoban.

Hoban said since its introduction the Work Programme has "given hope to those written off by society".

The minister was speaking this morning at a conference in central London, A team effort: the role of employers in closing the protection gap, organised by independent think-tank Reform.

However he acknowledged more work still needs to be done. "We are focused on providing sustainable employment for those who are out of work," he said.

"We need to remove complex barriers that are currently stopping many people getting into work, however the Government can't do this by itself."

He added: "Employers must give opportunities to people who find it the hardest to gain employment, such as ex-offenders or those who have grown up in 'worklessness' areas."

Also speaking at the event was shadow chancellor for employment, Stephen Timms, who said the coalition Government's economic policy was "clearly not working" as unemployment remains "stubbornly high". He also described the Work Programme's performance as "deeply disappointing".

If Labour wins the election, Timms proposes a completely different approach, based on a jobs guarantee. "Young people under 24, out of work for over a year, will be guaranteed a choice of jobs, or sometimes a training place, lasting at least six months," he said.

"The jobs offered will occupy them for at least 25 hours per week on at least the minimum wage, with the rest of the week available for supported job search.

"Those aged 25 and over will get that guarantee if they have been out of work for two years."

Timms added: "Once the guarantee has been offered, no further jobseekers allowance will be payable for at least six months." He insisted this was not a "soft option"

The shadow minister also criticsed the Government for "scrapping" Labour's Future Jobs Fund, which provided a guarantee for young people, before the last general election.

"In Government we will work hard to engage the enthusiasm we know there is in the private sector for helping young people."

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